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Ernest Hooper, Times Columnist/East Hillsborough Bureau Chief

Ernest Hooper

Ernest Hooper is the East Hillsborough Bureau chief and columnist at the Tampa Bay Times. Hooper joined the Times in 1992 and has worked as a prep sports writer and editor, TV/radio sports columnist, NFL writer, news columnist and unofficial ambassador, representing the Times as an emcee, judge or keynote speaker at hundreds of nonprofit events and civic functions. Hooper added the role of East Hillsborough Bureau chief in 2012. He oversees news content for the Times' regional edition east of Tampa, the SouthShore & Brandon Times, and writes two columns a week. His commentaries about family, community issues and political perspectives have helped Hooper connect with readers over the years, but he's probably best known for his signature tagline: That's all I'm saying.

Phone: (813) 661-2440


  1. Hooper: Let's 'make it better' for LGBTQ teens

    Human Interest

    As a prelude to tonight's performance of It Gets Better, the traveling musical production that chronicles true stories of the LGBTQ experience, the David A Straz Center for the Performing Arts staged a "World Cafe'' Wednesday evening.

    It's goal: to encourage a community conversation about the challenges faced by the LGBTQ community, especially teens.

    The term "It Gets Better" stems from a campaign sparked by nationally syndicated sex advice columnist Dan Savage, who wanted to reduce the growing number of LGTBQ teen suicides with a message of encouragement....

  2. West Tampa chamber tabs native to help boost development


    WEST TAMPA — Jeanette LaRussa Fenton retired in January after 41 years of public service with Hillsborough County and most recently, the city of Tampa.

    Fenton, however, remains engaged with helping the community where she was born and raised: West Tampa. This week, the West Tampa Chamber of Commerce hired Fenton to serve as an economic development consultant and help bring greater value to chamber members and the overall area....

    The West Tampa historic district with its old cigar factories can help stimulate a prosperous new era for the region, its boosters say.
  3. Sunday Conversation: Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins


    Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins doesn't hesitate to pull out charts and graphs when asked about the school district's improving graduation rates. Even when Eakins grapples with budget challenges, a demanding school board, administrative changes and struggling inner-city schools, the 3.1 point improvement in the graduation rate represents a beacon of positivity. That increase in the 2015-16 school year equates to 595 more kids leaving the system with a standard diploma....

    Hillsborough County School Superintendent Jeff Eakins, seen here addressing more than 600 new incoming teachers during a district wide orientation, last year, is excited about the district’s improving graduation rates.
  4. Hooper: Let's be compassionate in face of Trump's budget

    Human Interest

    After anger and angst — I felt both listening to Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney detail President Donald Trump's budget blueprint — I stepped back and calmed down.

    The people who may be affected by potential budget cuts need more than a vilification of Trump and his supporters. They need more than fear.

    They need solutions.

    Our concern should lie not with those who care about the wrong community aspects, but with those who don't care at all....

  5. Hooper: Black Marriage Day points up value of two-parent households



    Looking to promote Black Marriage Day, Stephanie McNeal-Brown recently found herself in a bit of a funk.

    She received an impressive response from those who attended her 2016 panel discussion on the subject — a topic full of unvarnished truths — but her 2017 event plans left her grappling with self doubt.

    While the poetry slam on Friday (March 24) had drawn interest, ticket sales lagged for the community conversation slated for Saturday (March 25)....

    Grow Women founder Stephanie McNeal-Brown said her promotion of Black Marriage Day is as much about her own four children as it is about helping the African-American community.
  6. Audience wowed by opening of 'destination' theater, Riverview 14 GDX


    GIBSONTON — People stepped into the Goodrich Quality Theaters' GDX auditorium Thursday and immediately looked up in awe at the floor-to-ceiling screens.

    The aisles between rows in the 250-seat room are wide enough for rollerblading, the recliners feel like a mattress and the 60 speakers can make those recliners rumble with every intense moment from a movie soundtrack.

    Ever since Xscape Theaters and Goodrich Quality Theaters announced plans to open 14-screen multiplexes within miles of each other in this growing corner of the county, it shaped up as a battle for moviegoers in the SouthShore and Brandon area....

    Goodrich Quality Theaters hopes its new Riverview 14 GDX will draw its audience from all across the Tampa area.
  7. Hooper: Griffey Sr. brings prostate cancer warning to Tampa forum


    Until March 1, Ken Griffey Sr. said he never realized so many tunnels run underneath Washington, D.C.

    Griffey, a former Major Leaguer and father of Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., walked those tunnels earlier this month seeking dollars for prostate cancer research. At 66, the suburban Philadelphia man could revel in retirement and spend time spoiling grandkids.

    Instead, he partnered with Zero — The End of Prostate Cancer to lobby senators and representatives. Grifffey, a leading advocate for the Bayer pharmaceutical company's "Men Who Speak Up" campaign ( does just that about a deadly disease he managed to overcome....

    Ken Griffey Sr., an advocate for cancer screening and spokesman for Bayer’s Men Who Speak Up campaign, will appear at the Moffitt Cancer Center Men’s Health Forum Saturday (March 18).
  8. Hooper: Could Charlie Crist try another run for governor? No, seriously

    Human Interest

    During our recent appearance on WEDU-Ch. 3's Florida This Week, political strategist Barry Edwards put forth a theory that U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist would make a 2018 run for governor.

    I literally blurted out: "Stop."

    But the more Edwards and I spoke after the show, the more he strengthened his argument. Whether Crist could win remains a different discussion, but the chance he might join the current field of possible Democratic candidates remains real....

  9. Hooper: Repair-challenged homeowners can turn to on-demand Tampa app


    TAMPA — Growing up, my family seldom relied on a professional handyman.

    When we needed something fixed, we didn't call a plumber or an electrician, we called our next door neighbors, the Toomes family.

    George and Pearlie Toomes had seven sons and each could fix just about anything — screen doors, plumbing, air conditioners — because their father could fix just about anything. They also specialized in catching lizards with an old coffee can when one got in the house....

    Homee has turned home repairs into an on-demand service that promises a quick response, cost controls and quality service using an app similar to Uber. Photo courtesy of Homee.
  10. Hooper: Gasparilla artists beckon with intriguing works

    Human Interest

    Meandering through the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts never leaves me disappointed.

    William Kwamena-Poh offered a peek into his native Ghana through his stylized gouache works. Katie Heffel boasted that she offered her captivating New York works at Tampa prices. Wanda J. Brown waved at folks.

    MacDonald Training Center CEO Karenne Levy looked on as the work of the center's clients fetched buyers. And Jes Irie Wear came from Islip, N.Y., to showcase clothes that "fit and flatter." Fashion is art....

  11. Hooper: All of the festival's music acts deserve a good audience


    Florida Strawberry Festival general manager Paul Davis had long held Patti LaBelle on his wish list of headline entertainment.

    And just to make sure the soulful LaBelle still had the chops to deliver, he attended one of her recent shows and marveled over a three-hour performance that belied the diva's 72 years.

    The festival's brand rests on appearances by big stars like LaBelle, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town and Jennifer Nettles. But did you know Davis and his staff invest as much time in choosing the acts that perform beyond the main Wish Farms Soundstage....

    Dennis Lee and his band will be performing daily at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. in the Publix Showcase Tent.
  12. Hooper: Wise words not lost in works of folk art matriarch

    Human Interest

    Ruby C. Williams, Florida's folk art matriarch, regaled an audience of well-wishers at an Athena Society event in Bealsville's historic Glover School.

    Williams, who keeps her age a closely guarded secret, shared her thoughts on being the great-great-granddaughter of one of the 12 founders of Bealsville, a community south of Plant City founded 152 years ago by former slaves. She spoke of her love of the land, her adoration for farming and the quaint appeal of her remarkable paintings....

  13. Hooper: Bethune portrayal underscores importance of Black History Month


    She stepped up to the stage after the dynamic speaker shared her thoughts on education, on race, on creating one of Florida's most prestigious historically black colleges.

    She looked the speaker in the eyes, embraced her and sweetly said, "Hello, grandmother." And in that moment, Ersula Odom's ongoing portrayal of Mary McLeod Bethune received its most significant endorsement — from the granddaughter of the legendary educator....

    Evelyn Bethune, the granddaughter of legendary educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune, poses with Ersula Odom and Ashley Robertson, curator/director of the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation. Odom portrays Mary McLeod Bethune and received an endorsement from both Bethune and Robertson after a recent performance in Daytona Beach.
  14. Hooper: Officials should ride the bus to get a look at transit flaws

    Human Interest

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist made a stunning admission in a well-reported story on Tampa Bay's transportation woes by Tampa Bay Times staff writers Caitlin Johnston and Eli Zhang.

    Crist said he didn't realize HART stands as one of the most poorly funded transit systems in the nation until a Times reporter told him. Amazing. First of all, it's his job to know. Second, the shortcomings of the system become apparent to anyone who spends even a single day using the system to get to work....

  15. There's no room for mistakes in tourism funding

    Human Interest

    It's a familiar Aesop's Fables, but it appears Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has never read The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs.

    Corcoran, perhaps to boost his name recognition for a gubernatorial run, continues to make headlines in his quest to withdraw state funding from Visit Florida. Even more amazing, Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, went against his area's own tourism interest in a House subcommittee vote last week....